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Death in the Offing
Chapter 2

There were three cars parked near Connie Del Barba’s house at the corner of King’s Quay and Clarion Lane. Urquhart recognized Sergeant MacDonald’s and George Pauley’s. George was the police photographer and Jimmy figured that Buck had asked him to take some pictures.
       ‘Pretty beat us. And you got George Pauley to come, didn’t you?’ asked Jimmy.
       ‘Yep,’ replied Buck, pulling up just behind George Pauley’s car on King’s Quay.
       ‘That’s The Expositor station wagon. A.Y. is here, then,’ said Jimmy, looking to the other side of the Quay.
       ‘Well, he is giving the bride away,’ observed Buck. ‘Come on, soldier.’
       Buck and Jimmy opened their doors and stepped into the cool, moist air of the harbour. Buck fished a pack of cigarettes out of his coat pocket.
       ‘You don’t mind if I have a smoke before we go in?’ he asked.
       ‘No,’ said Jimmy, his mind suddenly racing in every direction. He didn’t want to talk.
       ‘It’s not so bad, Jiminy. Marriage, I mean. Good, really. It’s been nine years for Peggy and me and it couldn’t be better. She’s here, by the way. Mr. and Mrs. Pauley picked her up. Peggy thought it would be better if the two of us had a little time on our own. Get you quieted down, she said. Men are such babies, she said. Probably right, since you seem to have lost the power of speech,’ said Buck, who waited in vain for a response.
       ‘Anyhow, the whole thing is over in a blur. I don’t remember a single thing about our wedding – and that was a big deal. In a church and everything. Peggy was very beautiful – I do remember that. Oh, and she had a bouquet of roses and dried flowers. She was shaking so hard that the bouquet sounded like a brush fire. Men are such babies, my arm. I’m going to remind her of that,’ said Buck, taking a swift drag. ‘Hey, look. The sun is coming out. Bride’s weather.’
       Buck stamped out his cigarette and they began to cross to Mrs. Del Barba’s house. At the door, Jimmy caught Buck by the arm.
       ‘Thanks, Buck. Thanks for everything,’ said Jimmy. ‘The job. I got to meet Notepad. The three weeks for a honeymoon.’
       ‘Least I could do,’ said Buck. ‘I owed you for being away at New Year’s.’
       ‘Stop banging on about it,’ said Jimmy. ‘You don’t owe me – everybody takes holidays. Besides, you would have been useless anyway.’
       ‘Prob’ly. Woulda been my first murder, too. Woulda been fun,’ he said.
       ‘I’m glad you’re here today, Bucky. I mean it. ’Cause my knees don’t seem to want to work,’ said Jimmy, suddenly white as a sheet.
       ‘Knock, Jiminy. Knock.’
       The door was opened by Connie Del Barba, decked out in an electric blue New Look tea dress that would have been a showstopper on a Paris runway. Not for the first time did Jimmy Urquhart wonder how the old lady got her clothes.
       ‘The lamb to the slaughter! Come in, come in. Take off your coats and give them to Mrs. Pauley there. She’s in charge of wardrobe,’ said Connie. ‘Mrs. Pauley did my make-up. What do you think? Don’t answer that,’ she snorted. 
Connie was in her element – she’d had her hair done, too, and had broken out a rhinestone-studded cigarette holder for the occasion. She ran an approving eye over Jimmy Urquhart. ‘Well, copper, you brush up pretty nice, I must say. You know I offered to be the entertainment at the stag, but they said you didn’t have one. What’s the matter with you, Chief?’
       ‘I tried, Mrs. Del Barba, but he didn’t want one. He’d heard stories, apparently,’ said Buck with a long, hard look at the sergeant, who grinned and shrugged. Buck was best man and Sandy MacDonald was the only groomsman.
       ‘Chicken,’ said Connie, who was to be the bridesmaid. Florrie was going to be her sister’s maid of honour. ‘You must know Jack Parsons. Hey – Parson Jack. ’Cept he’s a J.P. I guess that’s how you know him.’
       ‘Jack,’ said Jiminy and Buck, almost in unison.
       ‘Good to see you both,’ said Parsons, a tall, angular man with a stick-out thatch of coppery hair. ‘Ready, Jimmy?’
       ‘I want to be, if that’s what you mean,’ replied Jimmy.
       ‘The most anyone can hope for,’ said Parsons. ‘When do we see the bride?’
       ‘Any time now,’ replied Connie Del Barba. It was a small group: five men, including Pauley and Parsons and two women – so far. They all fell to silence for a minute.
       ‘The angel of silence has brushed us with his wing,’ said Mrs. Pauley. 
       ‘The hour or twenty past or twenty to,’ observed the sergeant, who knew the theory. At that, the bracket clock mounted on the wall above the player piano chimed eleven. ‘There you have it,’ said MacDonald with finality.
       The front door opened and Notepad and Florrie walked in. There was a flurry of coats, a quick check in front of mirrors, and then it began. Parsons escorted Jimmy, Buck, and Sergeant MacDonald to the far end of the converted Del Barba warehouse. Mrs. Pauley sat at the piano and played ‘Where e’er You Walk’ by Handel. Connie led the women, followed by Florrie, and then The Expositor’s editor, A.Y. Bruce and his ward, Notepad. Jimmy thought he’d never seen anyone so beautiful and was close to tears for the first time since he was a boy. His knees actually knocked and Buck took him by the arm. The rest was a blur until he heard Jack Parsons say: ‘You may kiss the bride.’
       There was a sudden roaring of voices and Jimmy and Notepad looked up in total confusion from their kiss. An open hatch in the ceiling revealed dozens of happy faces peering down from above. 
       ‘Stand clear!’ came a voice from above. It was Constable Hoegy, the most junior member of Inspector Urquhart’s team. A chainfall was lowered to the floor, and down the staircase bounced Floyd and Lloyd Evans, who harnessed the piano to the chain and like magic, it immediately began to leave the ground. Connie and A.Y., who were both in on it, led everyone who was downstairs, upstairs. 
       The room was the same size as the entire ground floor. It was brick, with big wooden beams which were decorated with what seemed like miles of crepe paper ribbons. Pots and pots of early tulips and hyacinths lined all the big windows that overlooked the sunny harbour. The last to arrive upstairs were the newly minted Mr. and Mrs. Urquhart.           As they stepped from the staircase into the room, the piano was rolled to a corner, the hatch was closed, and the room cheered. Jimmy and Notepad slowly made their way to the centre of the crowd, filled with familiar faces – half of the Barrachois police force, all of Notepad’s co-workers from The Expositor, Mrs. Pretty MacDonald, Mrs. Coleman, Donald and Ice Cream Mary Petrie and their son, Alec. Dr. Grandage, the Medical Examiner. A couple of judges from County Court, Mrs. Wilmot. The Beckwiths were there with little Lana, who turned away abruptly when Notepad bent down to her.
       ‘What’s wrong, Lana?’ asked Notepad.
       ‘You didn’t want a flower girl,’ said Lana, her face fierce with outrage.
       ‘Oh, darling, but I do want a flower girl,’ said Notepad. ‘There just wasn’t room downstairs, you see. Could I ask you to be my flower girl up here?’
       Lana scowled like she smelled a rat but nodded anyway. Even five-year-olds need face-saving from time to time. Notepad unpinned the orchid corsage from her white suit.
       ‘Here, sweetie. I’m just going to pin this on your pretty dress and you can look after it for me. They will be taking some pictures of us later and I’ll need my flower girl to deliver my flower for that. Can you do that?’ asked Notepad.
       ‘How will I know?’
       ‘I’ll send my sister to get you. Her name is Florrie. That’s her there,’ she said, pointing.
       ‘Okay. Congratulations, Mrs. Urquhart,’ said the little girl. 
       It was the first time anyone had called Notepad Mrs. Urquhart. Notepad was a little stunned at the sound and wasn’t at all sure she approved completely, but she turned to see Jimmy regarding her and the new name didn’t seem to matter much anymore. 
       Pearl Evans pushed her way to the piano and started to bang out a never-ending series of jigs and reels. Pearl was eighty, bigger than life in most ways, with grey hair wrapped around a chestnut-coloured bun, purchased in palmier days. The bun, less securely fastened than was advisable, bounced and waved to the pounding of the keys. Champagne, courtesy of Pearl and her boys, started to flow and soon the entire party was up and dancing. 
       ‘Thanks for the champagne,’ shouted Jimmy into Pearl’s ear. 
       ‘Ah, it’s just the Widow, they call it. I like the Dom fella, but this is OK, too. For a crowd, ya know? Here – Spring Break-Up,’ she said and changed key on the fly for the jig. ‘Fetch me a glass, will ya? Thanks, Mr. Urquhart. Thanks for everything,’ she said and elbowed him in the hip. 
       ‘You’re welcome, Pearl. They’re not bad boys,’ shouted Jimmy in her ear.
       She motioned him to bend down and she shouted back: ‘There’s not many that know the difference between what’ll do good and what’ll do bad, Mr. Urquhart. You gave them boys their lives back and mine, too, I can tell ya. Blessings be on you and your beautiful wife. She’s a keeper, young man.’
       Jimmy felt a tug on his sleeve. It was Mrs. Kendall from the travel agency with a man Jimmy took to be Mr. Kendall. Mrs. Kendall held out an envelope with airplane tickets.
       ‘Your tickets,’ she said.
       ‘Oh, thank you. I thought Buck had picked them up.’
       ‘He invited us to come along instead,’ grinned the normally dour Mrs. Kendall, who then swung a surprised Mr. Kendall onto the floor for the last few bars of Spring Break-Up.
       Dr. Grandage was at the side of the room, talking to Mrs. Pauley. Notepad came up to thank Mrs. Pauley for playing piano downstairs for the ceremony. Dr. Grandage gave her a kiss on the cheek and wished her and Jimmy a happy marriage.
       ‘And don’t forget, you’re coming up to the lodge for the last week of your honeymoon,’ he said.
       ‘I can’t tell you how nice that sounds,’ said Notepad over the din. 
       ‘Well, it’ll be bare bones. Just a few guests and a skeleton staff – but it will be pretty and quiet and you’ll be the very first guests we ever have. I plan on spoiling you a little,’ said the Doctor, who had started building the lodge before the war put his plans on hold. It was to finally open officially on Victoria Day – the twenty-fourth of May. The next couple of months were meant to work out all the kinks.
       ‘It sounds wonderful,’ said Notepad.
       The party continued for two hours before George Pauley started to assemble the wedding party at the end of the room for photos. 
       ‘Florrie?’ called Notepad. ‘Can you find the little girl with my corsage? Her name is Lana and she’s my flower girl, you get it?’
       ‘Got it. Lana.’
       In relatively short order, the photos were taken, including one with Lana bearing the corsage like a ritual offering. 
       ‘We’ve got to get a move on; the flight’s in forty minutes,’ said Jimmy, looking at his watch. ‘Where are our bags, Buck?’
       ‘All taken care of. Slip away downstairs and there’s a ride waiting for you. They’ve got the bags. Go. Go now.’
Down went Notepad and Jimmy, sneaked on their coats, and stepped out into the street. A black paddy wagon, lights flashing, was waiting on King’s Quay, its back door held open by a grinning police constable. Jimmy and Notepad looked up to the big window where the party continued, only to see dozens of laughing faces plastered against the glass.
      ‘I will kill Buck,’ said Jimmy. ‘A paddy wagon, for cripes’ sake.’
      ‘Come on, Ontario boy. Laugh a little,’ said Notepad, beaming. ‘You’re part of Barrachois now. For good and certain.’ 
      In they climbed, the barred door clanged shut, and off they went to the airport, siren blaring. Notepad peered through the bars of the back window and saw Constable Hoegy in the middle of King’s Quay, cheerily waving. She kept that to herself.
       In the airport, at the Trans-Canada Airlines desk, they were met with a cool detachment from the woman behind the counter, who had watched them get out of the paddy wagon. ‘You would be the policeman who got married, then?’ she asked.
       ‘Sorry about the entrance,’ said Jimmy.
       ‘It’s all right. I have brothers,’ she replied. 


Character should always drive plot.

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